China’s southeast coastal areas have witnessed rapid growth in the last two decades, owing mostly to their economic and social attractions. In this paper, we chose Jimei, a coastal peri-urban district of Xiamen city on the southeast coast of China, as a study area to explore the district’s growth dynamics, to predict future sprawl during the next decade and to provide a basis for urban planning. The SLEUTH urban growth model was calibrated against historical data derived from a series of Landsat TM 5 satellite images taken between 1992 and 2007. A Lee-Sallee value of 0.48 was calculated for the district, which is a satisfactory result compared with related studies. Five coefficients of urban growth, diffusion, spread, breed, slope resistance and road gravity had values of 25,68, 86, 24 and 23, respectively, in 2007. The growth coefficients (i.e., urban character) can capture urban growth characteristics in Jimei district. The urban DNA revealed that, over the study period, urban growth in the district was dominated both by urbanization through establishment of new urban centers, and by expansion outward from existing urban centers. In contrast to interior cities, in which expansions are dramatically shaped by actual road patterns, urban expansion in the district was likely constrained by the nearby coastline. Future urban growth patterns were predicted to 2020 assuming three different development scenarios. The first scenario simulated a continuation of historical urban growth without changing current conditions. The second scenario projected managed growth in which urban growth is limited by a layer with areas excluded from urbanization, which is the future development plan for Jimei district and Xiamen city. The third scenario depicted a growth with maximum protection in which growth was allowed to continue, similar to the second scenario, but with lower diffusion and spread coefficients applied to the growth pattern. The third scenario demonstrated that valuable land could be saved, which is the most desirable outcome for Jimei urban development. The study showed that SLEUTH can be an extremely useful tool for coastal city managers to explore the likely outcomes of their city development plans.